August 9, 2018

ClassroomScreen: A Free Management Tool for Spanish Class

ClassroomScreen.com is the classroom management tool I'm most excited to implement with my students this fall.  I attended an educational technology PD yesterday with the amazing Leslie Fisher and ClassroomScreen was my favorite takeaway. It would take me way too long to write about all it's features, so I'm going to show you instead. Check it out my video tutorial here (and please ignore my terrible hair day):


Let me summarize my favorite implementations of ClassroomScreen.com for the WL classroom:

1. The Volume/Sound Level Monitor

Not that this has ever happened to any of you, but I know I've had moments when I clearly explained that the volume level for students working was supposed to be a level 1 and within moments the class is screaming at a level 4.  It's maddening and kids seem completely oblivious to how stinking loud they are! 

Enter the ClassroomScreen volume monitor.  You set an acceptable volume marker and when gets go above that level, it turns red. Then you don't have to be the bad guy; ClassroomScreen tells the kids they were too loud. Boom. Done.

World Language classrooms aren't supposed to be silent; our students need to talk to learn the language, but that doesn't mean they have to be yelling. Agreed?

2. The Conversation Symbols

If you've read about my intense love for the CHAMPS classroom management system or use my CHAMPS expectations poster, you'll know why I LOVE the conversation symbols on ClassroomScreen.com.  You can select silence, whisper, ask a neighbor, or work together.  Sure, you'll need to talk to students about what volumes go with each of these behaviors, but it will be easy to redirect students by point to the symbol on the board as a reminder. 

3. A Recurring Timer

This doesn't seem like a big deal, but a recurring timer is HUGE news for my classroom. My students do speed-dating interpersonal speaking practice often (I need to write a blog post on this, but think a bunch of students talking in an organized fashion and rotating to the next person when the timer goes off).  With speed-dating the recurring timer will be ideal.  

I've always just used a maraca every minute or two to let students know they need to rotate, but it's annoying and I sometimes forget.  With the ClassroomScreen recurring timer, I'll be able to set the length of the timer, the number of times I want the timer to start over, and that's it. 

4. You'll Wow Administrators During Evaluations

This goes without saying. ClassroomScreen.com is classroom management dream come true. It makes your expectations clear. If you aren't already, you'll look like a management rockstar and that section on your evaluation will be amazing. We all know teachers don't do things just for good evaluations, but it can't hurt right?

5. You Can Set the Target Language

This is kind of self-explanatory, but I love that I can set the language for ClassroomScreen. There's even an option for Castilian and Latin American Spanish. What language teacher doesn't love that? Plus, the language has a cute little flag that stays on the screen. Adorable. 


I'd really love your feedback on how you'd implement ClassroomScreen with your students!  Please comment below and share how you'd use it because I know there are a ton more uses I haven't considered. 


July 27, 2018

The Perfect IPA to Kick Off Spanish Class

Want to know what unit I used to hate teaching the most? Greetings and introductions. It just seemed so boring and repetitive and I swore if I heard one more kid say, "Cómo te llamas" and pronounce the word like the animal, I was simply going to lose it and do this:

via GIPHY

I hated teaching the introductory conversation until the day I realized that it was probably the most important unit I was going to teach my students. They were likely going to need to use basics of the introductory conversation more times than anything else I ever teach them.  I changed my attitude about the unit unit and completely redid the first few weeks of Spanish I, culminating in an IPA assessment that my students actually enjoy taking? Enjoy taking a test? It's possible. Here's how...

Spanish IPA Greetings, Introductions, and Small Talk. Intro Unit IPA for Spanish Level 1

Here's what I realized:

1. I had to find a way to get students excited about a seemingly boring topic.

First, I implemented "fake it til you make it." I'd never been the least bit excited about teaching the introductory conversation and so, not surprisingly, my students weren't either. It didn't help that they'd heard, "Hola, ¿Cómo estás? Mucho gusto" hundreds of times on Dora the Explorer or in elementary Spanish.  I convinced them that 1) just because they have heard it or been introduced to it didn't mean they knew how to have the conversation and 2) it would probably be one of the most valuable conversations they'll ever need to learn.

2. Students need to start off the year feeling successful.

My favorite thing about IPAs is that they are straightforward and assess what students can do, not what they know.  I find that my advanced students feel challenged, but that IPAs also scaffold for students who might typically struggle on assessments.  After taking this first IPA in my class, students feel proud of themselves for what they've accomplished.  Some kids will ask, "Is that it? That was the test?" Yup, that's it.  There's no tricks, it's not a game.  In my class you'll have to speak, write, and understand Spanish and you just proved you could.

3. Students needed to listen to people actually having the introductory conversation.

I think part of the issue was that students didn't see the value in learning greetings and introductions. It didn't seem like something people actually did in real life.  I found a bunch of authentic videos of people greeting and introducing themselves to one another in a really fun context and my kids LOVED watching them. They had the opportunity to hear how heritage speakers use the vocabulary I was teaching and it hooked them.  You'll find a bunch of practice interpretive listening activities that prep students for the experiences they'll have on the IPA here

Spanish Greetings, Introductions, and Small Talk Interpretive Listening Practice Activities Featuring Authentic Resources #authres

4. Skits weren't going to cut it.

Skits are lovely and students enjoy doing them, but skits themselves aren't sufficient to prepare students for the demands of on-the-spot, spontaneous interpersonal speaking experiences with people they've never meet.  Instead, I've found students really love doing speed-dating speaking activities in which they rotate and talk with many classmates in a short period of time.  Read more here about speed-dating and other ways to prep students for interpersonal speaking. 

5. IPAs give students multiple ways to demonstrate mastery.

Some students love speaking Spanish, but the majority don't, especially not at first.  Some students excel at reading, while others are beautiful writers.  My most struggling students are usually not amazing readers or interpreters, but they often do quite well with interpersonal speaking because they are good communicators.  What I like about IPAs is that there is usually something for everyone.  Educators today are expected to provide multiple ways to demonstrate understanding and with IPAs, students have to opportunity to show what they know and can do in several modes of communication. 


If you've been thinking about using IPAs or you're looking for the perfect introductory unit assessment, this is it.  You're students will finish the IPA feeling confident, motivated, and like there is a real-world application for what they've just learn. Check out this IPA here

If you'll like to read more about IPAs, check out my blog series here, which explains them start to finish. 

Questions? Comments? 



August 21, 2017

5 Ways CHAMPS Will Improve Your WL Classroom Management Today


After my fifth year of teaching in three different rural, urban, and suburban districts (I used to like to move around apparently), I took a teaching position in a new district. I thought after a few rough initial years of gradually improving my skills at managing students, I pretty much had the whole classroom management thing down. When my new district informed me that all new teachers were required to take a three-day classroom management course called CHAMPS, I tried to insist that I wasn't new. Heck, after five whole years, I was practically a veteran, right? Turns out I was dead wrong when it came to improving my management.

After the first day of CHAMPS training, I was completely sold. The training (guided by the book) forced me to completely reevaluate and refine my expectations and the way I explained them to my students.  Sure I expected my students to, for example, not talk while I was giving direct instruction, but had I considered exactly what I wanted students to do while teaching? What if they had questions? Were they allowed to move to sharpen a pencil? How were students to participate appropriately?  Most importantly, if I hadn't clearly considered these details, how were my students supposed to anticipate my expectations?

 5 Reasons the CHAMPS Method Improves Classroom Management

So, what makes CHAMPS so different from all of those other classroom management systems out there?  For me, there are several key features that made CHAMPS doable for me and stood out for the rest of the popular methodologies.

1. It's an acronym!

I mean, hey, in education we love acronyms, right? We need more of them, right? If you're as annoyed by all of the acronyms and tag lines flying around the education world, I'm with you, but this one actually means something worthwhile!  All of the letters in CHAMPS actually stand for expectations that you have for your students for any given classroom activity. The letters stand for:
  • Conversation: Are students permitted to speak during this activity? How loudly? At what level?
  •  Help: How should students get your attention if they need help? Who may they ask for help? What should they do in the meantime?
  • Activity: What is the objective or purpose of the activity? What is the end goal?
  • Movement: Are students allowed to move throughout the room during the activity? When? For what reasons?
  • Participation: What does participation look like during this activity? What behaviors show that students are or are not participating appropriately?
  • Success: When all of the above expectations are met, what will success look like?

2. It's easy to remember and visualize 

 A good chunk of the reason I love CHAMPS is because it is easy to reference during instructional time, which I do often and when students need reminders of what the expectations are.  CHAMPS guided me to really clarify all of the different behaviors I wanted to see for various types of classroom activities.  I sat down and brainstormed all of the different types of activities I do in class and what expectations I was looking for for each letter of the acronym. I decided that, essentially, I could really umbrella all of my lessons under 5 types of classroom activities:
  1. warm-up/ solo work
  2. teacher led activities (aka direct instruction time)
  3. group work
  4. assessment
  5. target language activities
To start, I had different posters with cute little clip art, but I think students had a hard time visually comprehending it all because it was so overwhelming, so I set out to create an easier-to-grasp graphic organizer because, frankly, I'm obsessed with charts. I came up with this poster, which I not only hang in my classroom for decoration, but actually use and reference every day in my classroom.  There's nothing better than classroom decor that actually serves a non-aesthetic purpose if you ask me.

CHAMPS Poster for World Langauge Classroom Management

If you'd like to save yourself the hours it took me to squeeze all of the text into those little boxes and purchase this EDITABLE poster, here's where you should head. I've included a few different backgrounds for you to choose from and you can even change the color of the columns to match your decor.  You can easily send it to a local print shop or did you know you can turn any image into a larger poster for free using BlockPosters.com? Yay for free websites that save money and time!

3. It's not cringy to implement

Shhhh, don't tell anyone this, but despite the mass hysteria around Harry Wong's The First Days of School for the last couple of decades, I think the examples are just too theoretical, lofty, and sprinkled with a bit to much fairy dust for my liking.  Don't get me wrong; I respect Mr. Wong and I'm glad that his methods worked for him and for his students, but I need something more strategic, specific, and frankly, practical.  CHAMPS provided me the structure and tools I needed, but didn't know I needed at the team, to plan out my management philosophy.

4. It's efficient

 While you might be thinking, "Who has time to give detailed instructions like that before every activity," trust me, CHAMPS will make your life easier not harder.  After teaching students how to use the poster and its expectations a few times, I usually only have to remind students by pointing to the appropriate column on my poster, which I keep at the front of the classroom so students are forced to think about it.  Just like with anything else, you'll have to initially train your students to use CHAMPS and be consistent about getting students to comply with all of the expectations on it, but sooner rather than later, my students get on board.  When your kiddos are speaking a little too loud, point to the "C" on the poster and remind them of the appropriate volume level.

I love efficiency more than most things in life.  I love that CHAMPS helps me not to repeat myself 1000000000 in a class period because the acronym reminds me of all of the things I need to say before I set students free to work on an activity.  There's nothing more annoying to me than having to get the group's attention and say, "Sorry, guys, but I forgot to mention what you need to do when you're done..." Your students will know what you expect, including how they should get help, what specific behaviors you want, and what to do when they are successfully done.

5. It's applicable

While it will take time to fully implement the full methodology, CHAMPS is awesome because you will walk away with strategies you can use instantaneously.  Nothing bothers me more than reading an education book or attending a training and thinking, "Well, that's a great idea that I won't be able to use for another 9 months until school starts again."  With CHAMPS, you'll immediately start rethinking the instructions you give your students, which is something I found myself improving on right away.

5 Reasons the CHAMPS Method Improves Classroom Management

So if you're tired of repeating yourself, your students asking what they are supposed to do, and feeling frustrated with your kiddos, I cannot recommend the CHAMPS method enough.  I encourage you to read the book, download my poster, and get starting with a classroom environment that is more efficient and less stressful.  Thanks for reading!

August 1, 2016

Getting That Spanish Classroom Ready



Today is August 1, which was a little bit of an unwelcome arrival because I feel like I'm just one month away from fall.  On the other hand, August brings all of the back to school excitement that I love. While I know many of you are busy getting your classrooms ready for school this week or later this month, school in Michigan doesn't start until after labor day, which means I still have just enough time to start planning how I'm going to decorate my classroom this year. 

I'm kind of obsessed with classroom organization and decor and I love revamping and changing things every year.  Here's what my classroom looked like last year and a few photos of my favorite decor features.

Seating Arrangement: 
After playing around with seating arrangements for about a decade, I now have have my desks arranged in groups of four and I love it for the purposes of interpersonal speaking.  I can quickly pair kids by side partner or across partner so that they don't get bored of working with the same person.


Bulletin Boards:
Most of my classroom decor revolves around the six bulletin boards I have the pleasure of covering each year. Finding decor was daunting my first year, to say the least, but now I have it down to a rotation that I change out every 3 or so years to keep it interesting for the kids since I teach many of my students for all of middle school.

Here are some of my most recent bulletin boards:

  • EdTech Tools Bulletin Board Printables Set
    • I designed these last summer as a way to get my kids using different educational technology tools in their Real World homework choice assignments. They look whimsical and I had good feedback from kids that they liked using a lot of the apps. 
  • Text Lingo Bulletin Board Set
    • I found a pin last summer about Spanish text lingo and decided that it would make such a fun and engaging bulletin board for my students. Plus, it doubles as a fast-finisher activity for my more advanced kiddos because they can try to figure out the meaning of the texts.
  •  CHAMPS classroom management grid
    • At my last district, I attended a training about CHAMPS, which is a classroom management approach that I love. It seriously changed the way I approached explaining expectations for activities to my students.
  • I love this word rejoinders bulletin board from Amy Lenord.  Since the highest level I teach is Spanish I for 8th grade, I think I'd like to to rework the categories and the terms used, but I think her idea is genius. Even though I referenced it throughout the year, I found almost none of my kids used it, so I'm thinking the terms are a bit advanced. I'd like to add categories for common classroom commands and courtesy phrases.

  • Inspired by all of the Path to Proficiency posts from last summer, I made this bulletin board last summer and I found myself actually referencing it in lessons so students could see my expectations and the language progression I was looking for. My Spanish I kiddos, in particular, found it motivating to see themselves improving. 

  •  I have used the interrogative (question) words printables from the Creative Language Class for the last several years, but I'm so excited that they've put out an updated version! Hurray for cute posters!
So, while I won't be able to be in my classroom for a few weeks because my building isn't yet opened to us, I hope that these ideas will be motivating to those of you headed back sooner than I. ¡Hasta pronto!

July 20, 2016

How to Create and Give Ipas: Part 6: The Presentational Task

From what I've seen, the presentational task is the most easily understood of the three IPA assessments.  I think this is because as teachers, we inherently have our language students write and occasionally present. Since most people already have a pretty good idea of what the presentational mode is, my goal for today's post is to share some hopefully new, or at least motivating ideas of some different ways to approach this task. 

But first, a few things about the presentational task.  This assessment can be either written or spoken or combined to have both, which is my personal favorite. Presentational speaking can be done in person or digitally performed. This is one area where I think almost anything goes.  I always aim to create a real-world reason for doing the task in the first place and to use a clear rubric with detailed descriptors.

After a few years of toying with different rubrics, I've finally adapted two by blending and adjusting one of Laura Terrill's presentational rubric and a Ohio Department of Education novice-mid rubric. While it takes a while to get comfortable using a rubric and it typically requires some tweaks for future assessments, here are the grading categories and goal descriptors for the rubrics I'm currently using for Spanish I.


Here are a few examples of various longer summative presentational assessments I've given as part of IPAs. I tend to do presentational projects every other unit and incorporate a different ed tech tool each time. I always provide pre-writing graphic organizers for these as they tend to help students feel less overwhelmed and more clear about the task at hand.


Below is an example of a student's family project:


Here is an example of a project dealing with likes and basic personal descriptions:

Finally, here's another example of a student presentation for a gustar unit reviewing personal descriptions:


For shorter writing assessments as part of my IPAs, the prompts tend to look more like the one below.
I think it's important to try to mix up presentationals as much as possible and to use them to give students voice. While kids will gradually learn to have fun with interpersonal speaking assessments, it's the presentational assessments, especially the projects, that kids will remember about our classes. I still remember the projects I did for my own high school Spanish classes. So be creative, let the kids have play with the language, and express themselves as much as possible.

May 18, 2016

How to Create and Give IPAs: Part 5: Managing an Efficient Interpersonal Task


Anytime I hear the concept of the interpersonal task introduced to a teacher who is unfamiliar or at least has not tried it in the classroom, there is a ton of resistance. I totally get it! I was the same way when I first learned about interpersonal speaking assessments.

Here are just a few of the concerns I've heard teachers discuss (with some help from my amigas on the Spanish Teachers in the US Facebook page) and then I'm going to address the primary concerns in a moment.


Concern #1: It takes way too much time to assess speaking.
This is probably the most common concern that teachers have about the interpersonal task.  For most of my teaching career, I agreed though I forced myself to do interpersonal speaking assessments, but hated it. I use to find listening to students speak be one of the most time-consuming, mind-numbing activities I ever had to do as a teacher. Thankfully, that has changed and I now thoroughly enjoy them. More about that later along with tips to get through 30 students' speaking tasks in one just one class period. It can be done.  I promise.

Concern #2: What do you do with the rest of the kids while I'm testing students?
Typically, I focus my complete attention only on the students speaking while the other 28 run around like wild animals. Kidding! I usually have students take the interpretive reading and/or presentational writing portions while I listen to students speak and grade them. I honestly works perfectly.  Sometimes students work on projects (usually an extended presentational task) or learn their new unit vocabulary online while I grade.  Once you set the expectations for how students should behave during the interpersonal and reinforce them, it really goes very smoothly.  I think you just need to have an individual task that can be done silently and independently and you won't have any issues.

Concern #3: My kids aren't yet able to have those kinds of conversations. 
I'm a believer that even my 6th graders can perform an interpersonal task if the expectations are appropriate. However, if your students haven't practicing interpersonal conversations or teacher-based question and answer activities beforehand, they probably won't be able to have a thorough conversation. I found that when I went with my current model for interpersonal tasks, I really had to change my teaching practices to include more daily conversation. If this is your primary concern, I'd love it if you could read yesterday's blog post for a bunch of tips and tricks to preparing students for the interpersonal speaking task. 
 
So, what does my model for interpersonal speaking assessments look like? In the past, I would call a student up to my desk and the two of us would have a conversation. I've heard of some teachers doing them in the hall, which sounds a little scary for a classroom management fanatic like myself.  My old way took forever and I apparently didn't clearly explain what the rest of the students were supposed to do because, in short, it was a chaotic nightmare.

I'm happy to say that all of that chaos is in the past. Last year, I attended a session on Proficiency with ACTFL presenter Laura Terrill. If you've been reading all of the previous blog entries about IPAs, you know how I feel about her ideas. She seriously changed my teaching and finally made the IPA interpersonal make sense. Based partially on her teaching and ideas I picked up previously, this is what I know do for my interpersonal tasks. See more detailed explanations further below.


1. I re-explain the scenario and the grading rubric to students before the task. This results in fewer questions and confusion and makes the process go faster, plus it's always good to remind students of how you're assessing them on the day of.

2. I carefully plan and clearly explain what students are working on while I'm assessing, but most often students work on the interpretive reading and presentational writing tasks.  Believe it or not, I can typically do the interpretive, interpersonal, and presentation tasks all in a 50 minute period for over 30 students. It can be done! Plus, I usually still do a warm-up. You could really do any individual task, but I find that the other IPA tasks work perfectly because it keeps them silent so I can focus on the assessment at hand. Some would say, however, that not all 3 tasks should be done on the same day. I'll stick with what works for me and my students.

3. I randomly pair up two students and I've never had students questions this practice. I set the precedent at the beginning of the year that my partner selection isn't a discussion or a debate. If I know the kids I randomly pick aren't a good pair, I usually just make a quick change and the students are none the wiser. As to the practice of pairing two students versus me having a conversation with a student, Laura Terrill claims that a teacher and student aren't a good interpersonal pair because the teacher inevitably will bail the student out while their peers won't. I've found I agree, but the best part about pairing two students is that I can kill two birds with one stone and I grade half as many conversations. Yay efficiency!

4. At Laura Terrill's suggestion, I give each pair 2 minutes to prepare. At first, I completely disagreed with this concept because I argued that it makes the situation not spontaneous. However, I decided to try it out and I love the effect that 2 minutes has upon my sanity.  Besides, I've found that 2 minutes isn't enough for students to memorize anything, but just enough to work out the kinks and get the interpersonal moving much more quickly and efficiently. While one pair is performing, another pair is on deck so things move smoothly. 

5. I grade using a rubric while each pair presents and provide feedback to each student on the spot. I've spent a lot of time revising and rethinking the grading rubrics I use to ensure I have the criteria I'm looking for and I'm really happy with this one. For the moment at least.
In the next post, I'll be discussing the presentational task and, while it is the area of IPAs that most teachers are most comfortably with, I think it helps to see some different examples.  Also, if you're interested in checking out some of my IPA units by thematic unit, please visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Spanish-With-Sra-Shaw/Category/IPA-Thematic-Assessments-241264


May 17, 2016

How to Create and Give IPAs: Part 4: Preparing Students for Interpersonal Speaking


Understandably, students need a lot of practice to become proficient in interpersonal speaking. I've found my novice-level students need a lot of repetition, structure, and opportunity to develop interpersonal speaking skills, but I've found several tactics that have my kiddos chatting freely away.

1) I frequently do a lot of short, interpersonal tasks based on cultural images and videos. Below are a few examples that include cultural images and prompts, usually in English, but occasionally in the target language. After students speak with their tables or with their partners, I model questioning methods and allow students to ask one another questions in front of the entire class. This helps students develop a larger question bank and struggling students to hear the types of questions they can ask to achieve a task.


2. When I first discovered question ladders six years ago, they changed the way my students approached interpersonal tasks.  Unfortunately, I now have no recollection of where I got the original idea.  I've scoured the internet and looked through every WL pedagogy book I own, but whoever originally came up with the concept is my hero.  Novice-level students really need to be given question and answer frames throughout a given unit if they are going to successfully craft a conversation for the interpersonal summative assessment.  When I first started using question ladders, I typically gave them to students toward the end of the unit. This year, however, I've been providing them to students at the beginning of the unit usually conveniently placed on the back of their vocabulary charts for easy access. I've found that when I give interpersonal speaking practice prompts like those shown above that my students are more engaged and more confident with the question ladder.
Notice that in the question ladder above, my students are provided a sample question, but must construct their own answers and a similar question.  Students use the question ladders throughout the unit, but I find I see many of my students using them as a study guide so they're very versatile. 

Also, please note that I'm not usually a big fan of  talking about explicit grammar in the like in left column, but I teach in a large district that is largely not proficiency-based and I feel obligated to ensure my students know the grammatical terms that many of their teachers will use in the future.  If you'd like to try out some question ladders with your students, all of my unit IPAs come with them, plus a whole lot more.

3. Now, let's get to talking about ways I let my students practice interpersonal speaking before the unit assessment. You saw the example prompts in the first bullet, but I often like to give my kids the opportunity to practice conversations with lots of their peers so they get a feel for the way different people approach a conversation.  My favorite speaking activity is called speed-dating, an idea I think I originally got from the Creative Language Classroom.  I'm kind of a classroom management nut, so I always spend a few minutes reviewing the rotation and after a few times, they've got the hang of it.  They know to move when I shake the maraca and that if they finish the conversation early, they should start the conversation over in a different way.  In my classroom, the rotation looks looks like the image below, but there are lots of different ways to get the same effect like inside-outside circles.

4. Finally, if you've never had the opportunity to attend a session with Laura Terrill, renowned language educator and ACTFL presenter, I can't recommend it enough. I've been fortunate enough to hear her twice in the last 18 months and she really made an impact upon my teaching.  She has an a ton of easy-to-implement practices for interpersonal speaking in the classroom and you can read about them here.  One of my favorite of the many ideas she taught to make the interpersonal task manageable is the TALK score concept shown below. 
While she says it shouldn't be overused, I find myself assessing students with TALK scores maybe 2-3 times monthly to hold my students accountable and to set expectations. Students know they will be assessed on how well they meet the four requirements and I usually give 1 point per criterion for a participation grade.  I always keep this graphic up on the projector as a visual reminder to kids that they're being assessed with a TALK score. 

I hope you got some great ideas for practicing interpersonal communication in your classroom. In the next post, Part 5: Managing the Interprsonal task, we'll move on from practicing speaking to the actual interpersonal IPA task. I'll be giving lots of tips about how to design the scenario, assess effectively, and manage students.  So you are sure to catch the next post, please take a moment to subscribe to my blog using the "follow by email" section in the right sidebar.